This week has felt heavy. For a few days, I wasn’t able to put my finger on why. Nothing has drastically changed for our family or our ministry. Sure, much of the world looks like one big dumpster fire, but that’s nothing new. The weight pressed down particularly hard yesterday following a couple of days of prayer ministry with several people facing huge challenges… illness, trauma, grief.
My husband and I are always intentional about handing these burdens over to God after we pray. It’s never a good idea to carry what isn’t ours to shoulder, but this can be especially challenging when we choose to love people deeply. Thankfully, God willingly accepts the burden.
We have a particular “cutting free” prayer we say together that includes these words: We realize that the sickness and evil we encounter is more than our humanity can bear, so cleanse us of any sadness, negativity, or despair that we may have picked up.
I felt the truth of these words in a new way this week as I prayed for the burden to lift. I struggled with the fact that so much of what happens in our broken world is “more than our humanity can bear.” As I thought about COVID deaths impacting families I know and precious people dealing with the pain of horrific abuse that occurred decades ago, I asked Why?
I know this is a fundamental question of human existence, and it’s not as if I haven’t grappled with the question before. But yesterday it felt raw. I asked God directly about a tragic situation unfolding in one particular family. The answer I heard in my spirit was I’m at work even in this.
Okay, I believe that Lord…but I can’t see it. What are you doing? As I asked the question, I felt I should turn to Psalm 117. I couldn’t remember anything specific about that Psalm and was taken by surprise when I turned to it and discovered only two verses.
Praise the Lord, all you nations; Extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us And the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
The second verse hit me hard. God was affirming my belief in his goodness even though I couldn’t understand the situation. It was as if he asked, “Are you willing to trust in my love and accept your human limitations to understanding?”
What choice do we have? Sure, we can torment ourselves trying to make sense of evil and suffering. Perhaps you are familiar with this kind of struggle. But it’s impossible for our hearts to find rest when we try to carry the world’s pain on our shoulders.
It’s important to know that we can go to God with big questions. I believe he welcomes our quest for understanding, but I’ve learned that it is equally important to accept that we may not receive an answer in the form we desire. Sometimes God reveals truths to us days, months, or even years after we ask for understanding. Why? I believe that God, in His wisdom, may delay a response until our hearts are prepared to receive it—until we are better equipped to see something through his lens. Truthfully, some things will never make sense, but God does offer peace and comfort in the midst of the struggle.
Have you ever noticed that much of the Christian journey is littered with paradox? I could make a long list of spiritual paradoxes that have caused me no small amount of discomfort. One might observe that the Christian faith itself is a paradox. The One who is fully God and fully man died on the cross so that we could have eternal life. One BIG paradox.
The last will be first, and the first will be last.
When I am weak, then I am strong…
As C.S. Lewis observed, “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.” Therefore, it is vital that we hold all things loosely, our questions as well as our convictions. God can transform both.
There is a vast difference between intellectual knowledge and heart understanding. It is the realm of the heart where God speaks into paradox and mystery. So many things don’t make sense to our human minds, but God loves us enough to make our hearts able to receive Kingdom revelation and wisdom. The mind may say, “That’s illogical,” but with God’s insight, our hearts begin to understand a deeper meaning.
And so I must also surrender my human understanding into God’s hands if I am to have any hope of gaining wisdom and insight. Neither you nor I were meant to carry the weight of human suffering, but the One who loves you is always willing to take the burden. That doesn’t mean everything will make sense, but it’s okay to sit in the messy mystery of it all as we allow God to turn darkness into light—within our own hearts and in the world around us.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Shay Mason